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Foxes are the champions

2 May

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On a night when the ‘Foxes’ of Leicester City won the Premier League at the expense of the cockerel crested Spurs, debating the fox and his many guises seemed appropriate, especially as the event took place at Lower Shaw Farm.

Chickens were conspicuous by their absence, perhaps taking the hint from the signage chalked across their usual pecking ground.

So, Fantastic Mr. Fox or ginger vermin?

Lucy Jones explores every side of this complex creature in her book Foxes Unearthed – A story of love and loathing in modern Britain.

Speaking in a former cowshed on an award-winning urban farm, Jones was in the perfect place to expand on the countryside vs. city paradox which sees foxes fed at back-doors by ‘townies’ but shot or hunted in the countryside.

Jones made it clear that Mr. Fox is both hero and the villain, and has been so since he slunk into mankind’s chicken cave centuries ago.

A keen audience of first-night festival-goers heard the wildly differing points of view of the hunting fraternity, angry saboteurs, curly haired pomp-rock guitarists and chicken-less farmers. Continue reading

Get your Swindon Festival of Literature tickets before the Brummies beat you to it

18 Mar

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Literature lovers of Swindon beware – the book-readers of Birmingham are after your Festival tickets.

Swindon’s 23rd annual Festival of Literature was launched in the courtyard of Swindon Library yesterday (Thursday) – the day that tickets went on sale.

And by 8.30am, revealed Festival organiser Matt Holland, the box office had already received ticket enquiries – some from as far afield as the Midlands and Home Counties. “Don’t be beaten by people from Birmingham and Basingstoke in getting tickets,” was his dire warning. Continue reading

Swindon Drag Kings, Cwmmy Crab and more

14 Oct

Another take on the Man for A Day poetry sesh by Myfanwy Fox. It was a great day!

Fox Unkennelled - Myfanwy Fox

Dusty in here, isn’t it? Tch. Blog neglect due to a mixture of far more exciting things happening or laziness when things are not happening (and a fair bit of day job intervening, too).

I really should plug things before they happen but here are some recent highlights:

Swindon Poetry Festival’s Drag King finale event, performing with Diane Torr and poets/writers Clare Shaw, Rachael Clyne, Hannah Linden, Jill Abram, Juliet Platt and Louisa Davison. Diane has been running Man For A Day workshops since the ‘80s and her workshop was a tiring but fascinating full day. Men’s clothing (and strategic socks) was the least of our worries. As make up – mainly involving scarily convincing facial hair – went on we became someone different and then found ourselves trying to work out who we were, these almost-unfamiliar men. Most of us had time to visit…

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Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes

13 Oct

One of the Festival Chronicle ‘Man for a Day’ (Swindon Festival of Poetry) fellow woman adventurers.

The Journal Writer's Handbook

One thing I know journaling is excellent for is considering other people’s perspectives and points of view. Something about our inner voice always guides us towards empathy and compassion if we listen carefully enough. There is simply nowhere to hide once we follow our journaling practice.

But we can still have blind spots borne out of ignorance. Our inner voice has little to say about things it hasn’t ever experienced. Sometimes we have to push ourselves a little bit further to fully understand what others experience.

This is what I did last week at Diane Torr’s Be a Man for the Day workshop.

I spent the day with six other women writers, none of whom I had met before. We shared our experiences of men and gender. We talked about far more that just cross-dressing. It was an exercise in poetry; in trying to understand male attitudes and behaviours by literally growing…

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A Rum Do!

6 Oct

Born Again Swindonian

Swindon Festival of Poetry 2014 – Sunday 5th October

Well. What a profound, powerful, personalised poetic jamboree that was. I’m not sure I have the words to do it justice but I’ll do what I can. I am speaking listeners of the double bill of offerings that took place today at the Museum and Art Gallery in Old Town.  In all honesty I went primarily to listen to Mike Pringle – as I know him personally from having had some involvement with the Richard Jefferies Museum over the summer. But as I had nothing special to do today and the double bill was a bargain price I figured I might as well do both and I’m very glad I did.

I can’t lie and pretend that poetry is my very favourite thing. Much like folk and country and western music there’s elements that I find interesting and affecting but overall it’s…

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Surprising yourself with Cliff Yates at the Swindon Festival of Poetry

3 Oct

I guess the most surprising thing about this poetry writing session was that I managed to write four pieces.

I wasn’t surprised about the range of poetry written by people – some wonderful, some in need of work, Cliff offering advice. We were asked: who would we like to be? Where did we visit? Who was the surprising guest? And: there is/are plenty of – what in my house? We were prompted to observe and record the surprising details to bring alive our verse.

I am always worried (but not surprised) at a smile response at my work. That says: yep, that doesn’t stir any emotion, or, sorry what were you saying? It was so boring I forgot it instantly. I could interpret it as: ‘that’s perfect as it is’. But that wouldn’t get me anywhere. Next time perhaps I’ll write something really atrocious and see what happens. Or maybe that smile is the ‘really atrocious’ response?

Neuroses aside, I am left with a question. Surprisingly for me I was reticent to talk. I looked around the room, at the quality of poets present, and felt I would waste everyone’s writing time if I asked why the poem Cliff had read to us by way of example, was actually a poem. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but it looked like flash fiction with really short lines. Answers on a postcard.

Props to Cliff though – prompts and space to write. Suggestions to do your own thing. Not expectations of form or the such like. And a top piece of advice for newly scribed work? Lose the last two lines.

And for anyone who’s interested, here’s one inspired by the surprising visitor. Totally true, y’all:

The Morning After

There we were
Lying around, pyjama clad
Fuggy voiced
Toxic sweat.

The phone rang. ‘Sorry I couldn’t make it last night.
Could I take you up on the offer of coffee? It’s Peter, your neighbour.
Can I come now?’
A brief pause. Sticky sweat trickles. ‘Okay.’
He asks: ‘Do you have fags?’ Continue reading

Milo gets the 17th Century Experience at Marlborough Literature Festival

30 Sep

We sent our eight-year-old Chronicler to the Merchant’s House in Marlborough, to find out more about life in the 1600s. 

Continue reading

Children’s author Caroline Lawrence at Marlborough Literature Festival

27 Sep
Children’s author Caroline Lawrence at Marlborough Literature Festival

Children’s author Caroline Lawrence at Marlborough Literature Festival

Words and picture by Milo Davison, aged 8

Today I went to the Lit Fest and listened to Caroline Lawrence, who writes The Roman Mysteries series of books.

I have almost finished reading The Legionary from Londinium, and I am really enjoying it. Continue reading

Speak, Memory – Philip Davis at Swindon Festival of Literature

17 May
Philip Davis

Philip Davis the writer of Reading and the Reader ©Calyx Pictures

I was immersed in words, in the idea of literature, in the excitement of reading, in the prospect of discovery, I was at The Arts Centre. Philip Davis was enthusiastically proposing literature as a way of exploring yourself, accepting it as a form of mental travel. Here is part of the journey he took us on. Please read the following poem aloud –


The Road Not Taken


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Continue reading

Filer nails it – Nathan Filer at Swindon Festival of Literature

16 May
Nathan Filer (centre) ©Calyx Pictures

Nathan Filer (centre) ©Calyx Pictures

Luckily ‘The Shock of the Fall’ is not a kiss and tell memoir by Mark E. Smith’s dentist, but an award-winning jewel of a book by first time novelist Nathan Filer.

Written completely from the point of view of nine-year old Matthew, the book has an implied darkness from the very start.

Filer was an enlightening guest, as he described the process of writing his novel from the very first moment the phrase ‘I had no intention of putting up a fight but these guys weren’t taking any chances’ entered his head and wouldn’t stop repeating. Continue reading